Better drugs education urged to fight ignorance
Hong Kong's young people are not getting the correct education and support about drugs, a group working with them says - despite a recent government study which showed a large fall in drug abuse among the city's teenagers.
The privately-funded KELY Support Group, which supports young people between the ages of 14 and 24, said data from an as yet unreleased research project jointly conducted by KELY and Polytechnic University - titled 'Stand Up and Say Something' - reveals fewer than 50 per cent of young respondents felt confident that they knew enough about drugs.
Further study showed that the information reaching them was often not the right kind. For example, some had no idea about the side-effects of ketamine, and many from ethnic minorities could not read drugs awareness material written in Chinese.
KELY is mandated by the police's narcotics division to provide drugs education to English speakers in international schools, because the schools do not get such education programmes from anywhere else.
'For us that's a huge disparity. Everybody thinks that the international school students are being taken care of, but it isn't always the case,' executive director Chung Tang said.
Current government drug campaigns are focused on being statistical and informative, but KELY researchers say what youngsters need is the capacity to refuse drugs.
Their study showed that two out of every 10 youth participants admitted that they felt unable to say 'no' when tempted with drugs. When interviewed further, all participants showed a lack of understanding concerning practical refusal skills.
'What people often don't realise is that there is a difference between knowing how to say the word 'no' and having the skills to successfully refuse drugs in a socially precarious situation,' said Chung.
Over the years the lives of thousands of youngsters in Hong Kong have been improved thanks to KELY. By running programmes to deal with drug and alcohol addictions, suicidal tendencies, low self-esteem and negative body image, the organisation offered hope to youngsters who needed it the most.
On November 26, KELY will mark its 20th anniversary with 'K20 - Celebrating 20 Years of Youth Empowerment', a fund-raising carnival to be held at the Y-Platform of Youth Square in Chai Wan.
The drop in the number of reported drug abusers aged under 21 in the first half of 2011, compared to the same period last year, from 1,752 to 1,257